For the past four years, Young Nak Celebration Church (YNCC) has taken the opportunity presented by the Thanksgiving holiday to reach out to international students at the University of Southern California.
This year was no exception. YNCC’s Thanksgiving Luncheon for International Students took place on Saturday (November 19) at YNCC’s Jefferson site, located about one mile away from the USC campus. About 60 students and volunteers gathered and played games, learned about the American Thanksgiving tradition, and shared traditions of gratitude in their respective cultures. Volunteers from YNCC stay connected with students and keep in touch throughout the year, according to Yana Ahn, the missions pastor at YNCC.
“USC hosts the second largest population of international students,” Ahn said. This fall semester, over 10,000 international students were enrolled at USC. “Most of them come from restricted areas where the Gospel is not easily accessible in their own country. Thus, it is the world coming to us, and we want to share the love of Christ with them while they are here. That’s how the ministry for international students began.”
The Thanksgiving Luncheon is one of several events that YNCC hosts during the school year specifically for international students, as they partner with other campus ministries specific to international students, including All Nations, Worldwide Friends, and LA International. During the beginning of the school year, they host a ‘Free Goods Day,’ providing household necessities donated by YNCC’s members. The church also hosts barbecues, hiking events, and other events to continually build friendships with the students.
“[International students] are open to new ideas and they are here from restricted and unreached areas, and will be the future leaders of their countries,” Ahn said, emphasizing the need for churches to become more deeply involved in ministry towards international students.
According to the Open Doors Report released earlier this month by the Institute of International Education, hundreds of thousands of new international students are enrolled in U.S. universities each year. In the 2015 - 2016 school year, over one million international students were enrolled in U.S. universities. Most students come from China (31.5 percent), India (15.9 percent), and Saudi Arabia (5.9 percent).
“We have one missionary locally and two other missionaries who partner with YNCC in other parts of the U.S. who are very willing to go and help other churches to be involved in this ministry,” Ahn said.
Those who are interested in reaching out to international students could contact firstname.lastname@example.org.